Monday 29 February 2016

Great Scott! Adam Wins Honda with Short Putter

Getty Images
Adam Scott banished any doubts over how he would cope without the long putter that helped him become No1 in the world with victory in the Honda Classic on Sunday.

Scott recorded a closing 70 at PGA National at Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, to finish nine under par, one shot ahead of his playing partner Sergio García, who was left to rue dropped shots on the 16th and 17th in his 71.

The American pair Blayne Barber and Justin Thomas shared third place on five under, with Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell a shot further back in fifth after a closing 69.

Scott won the Masters in 2013 using a long putter and reached the top of the world rankings in May 2014, a week before his last victory, in the Crowne Plaza Invitational, but has successfully reverted to a conventional club to comply with the ban on anchored strokes which came into effect on 1 January.

The 35-year-old began the final round tied with García and moved two shots clear with birdies on the 1st and 5th as he looked to become the first player since Phil Mickelson in 2009 to win on the PGA Tour after making a quadruple bogey. The Australian had enjoyed a three-shot lead before finding water twice on the par-three 15th in the third round to run up a seven, although a birdie on the 17th helped repair some of the damage.

García had bogeyed the 17th before a birdie on the 18th took the two friends into the last day tied at the top of the leaderboard, but the Spaniard had to settle for nine straight pars on the front nine in the final round.

However, with Scott dropping a shot on the 9th after failing to get up and down from a greenside bunker and another on the 10th after a wayward drive, García was back on level terms before missing from two feet for par on the 11th after his approach cleared the water by only a few yards.

Scott restored his two-shot lead after a superb approach from a fairway bunker on the 12th left him with a tap-in birdie, only for García to reduce his deficit to a single shot with a birdie on the 14th.

Both players bogeyed the 16th and García’s chances of victory effectively disappeared with another bogey on the next, although he at least birdied the last before Scott calmly tapped in for par to secure the win.

Speaking to Sky Sports after securing his 12th PGA Tour title, Scott said: “I’m so pleased. It’s been a long time between drinks on the PGA Tour, especially after I was in such good form the last time I won, but that’s the beauty of this game.

“It felt like hard work out there to get it in the clubhouse and Sergio stuck with me the whole way and did not give me an inch. Fortunately it was enough to win.

“The game was definitely there, although it was not as pinpoint as yesterday. It’s hard to do that two days in a row at PGA National but I hit some great shots at the right times and hit a lot of putts that hit edges today.”

Asked about reverting to the short putter, Scott added: “It was a tough change in some ways but I fully embraced it when I decided to make it at the Presidents Cup last year and I have enjoyed putting with the shorter putter since.

“I feel like I am getting better and better and today was a great test. I made some and missed some. I’m going to try and get better next week and it’s certainly validated making the move to the short putter.”

García was magnanimous in defeat, telling Sky Sports: “I think he deserved it. I am proud of the way I hung in there. I don’t feel like my swing was anywhere near where I wanted it to be but I scored nicely.

Benzema Injured in Atletico Defeat

Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema is expected to be out for up to a month because of a right leg muscle injury.

Benzema will miss upcoming Spanish league games and the Champions League return match against Roma next week. Madrid won the first leg 2-0 in Rome.

The Frenchman should be fit again in time for El Clásico against Barcelona in the Spanish league at the Camp Nou on 2 April.

Madrid did not say exactly how long the player was expected to be sidelined, noting that “his recovery will continue to be assessed”.

Benzema had missed the game against Malaga a week ago because of a back problem. He was substituted at half-time in Madrid’s 1-0 home defeat against Atlético Madrid because of the muscle injury.

On Satuday Atletico Madrid won a third consecutive La Liga Bernabeu derby to practically end Real Madrid's title hopes.

Diego Simeone's visitors are now five points off leaders Barcelona, who have a game in hand, while Real are nine points below the champions.

Antoine Griezmann scored the only goal, early in the second half, when he steered Filipe Luis' pass home.

Real, who were two points off Barca when Zinedine Zidane took over, had not lost in his first eight games as boss.

The result means Atletico are the first side in La Liga history to win three times in a row at the Bernabeu, as Real fans called for club president Florentino Perez to resign.

Infantino in Dark About FIFA Pay

Getty Images
Gianni Infantino said on his first full working day he still did not know what he would be paid as the Fifa president.

Infantino said he expected the bidding process for the 2026 World Cup, delayed last year by a scandal that has engulfed Fifa, should begin in the next couple of months. The 2018 and 2022 tournaments, to be staged in Russia and Qatar, had to be the “best in history”, he said.

Speaking after an informal football match with Fifa employees and guests, Infantino said he had not discussed his salary following his election on Friday. “I have no idea yet. I know you can’t believe it but it’s not [for the] money that I was candidate to become Fifa president. I have not discussed with anyone about my pay or what my pay will be. We will see.“

The salary of Infantino’s predecessor Sepp Blatter, suspended for six years, has never been made public. Reforms agreed by Fifa last week to overcome the corruption scandal included provision for salaries to be open to scrutiny.

He said bidding for the 2026 World Cup hosting, which was supposed to have started in 2015 with a decision due in Kuala Lumpur next year, should begin before the Mexico City congress in May.

“Definitely I think we need to launch the bidding process in the next couple of months, probably before the next congress in May,” Infantino said.

Citing Commissioner Clears Brown

Getty Images 
Mike Brown has escaped being cited for kicking Conor Murray in the Six Nations victory over Ireland.

Brown had protested his innocence after making contact with the Ireland scrum-half’s head while trying to kick the ball free during Saturday’s 21-10 win, tweeting: “Video ref clearly showed I didn’t [do anything wrong] and kicked the ball.” 

The referee Romain Poite judged the contact was accidental, though Murray required stitches for a head wound. The citing commissioner agreed.

The Ireland coach, Joe Schmidt, absolved the full-back of blame: “I know Mike Brown wouldn’t have done it on purpose, he was trying to connect with the ball, but it’s not something for us to influence whether he was culpable for being reckless or whatever.”

Brady to Extend New England Deal

Tom Brady will sign a contract extension with the New England Patriots that will see the quarterback play well into his 40s, according to reports.

ESPN reports that Brady will tack two years on to his current deal, extending his career until 2019. Brady is due to earn $9m in 2016 and $10m in 2017, with a salary cap charge of $15m this year. However, the extension is likely to lower the latter figure which could help free up room to negotiate new contracts for players such as Chandler Jones and Malcolm Butler, whose deals are up at the end of next season.

While Brady’s great rival Peyton Manning is likely to announce his retirement in the near future, the Patriots quarterback, who turns 39 in August, has spoken of his desire to extend his career for as long as possible. “I’d like to play a long time,” Brady said in October 2015. “There’s a lot that goes into playing well. I’ve played with a lot of great team-mates. But I want to play for a long time, maybe 10 more years. I think that’s probably what my goal is.”

Brady, unlike Manning, has shown little sign of decline as he approaches 40. He threw for 36 touchdowns last season – his highest tally in the regular season since 2011. His seven interceptions were also his lowest total since 2010.

Sunday 28 February 2016

Rea Superbike Winner in Phillip Island

Getty Images
Reigning champion Jonathan Rea clinched a double win in round one of the World Superbike series in Australia after Chaz Davies slid off on the last lap.

As was the case in Saturday's opener, the Northern Irishman and Welsh rider duelled on the final lap but on Sunday Davies came off after running wide.

That left Rea, 29, to finish 0.83 seconds ahead of Dutchman Michael van der Mark with Davide Giugliano third.

Davies, 29, remounted his bike to cross the line in 10th spot.

Rea pipped Ducati rider Davies by 0.063 seconds in Saturday's season-opener in Phillip Island with Van der Mark taking third.

The Northern Irishman is aiming to emulate the achievement of Carl Fogarty, who successfully defended his title twice in the 1990s.

Rea won 14 of the 26 races last year and was on the podium 23 times.

The defending champion's Kawasaki team-mate Tom Sykes led for almost half the race before a mistake dropped him back to fourth.

Dutchman Van der Mark then led for seven laps before Davies edged into the lead prior to his final-lap mishap.

Nicky Hayden, the 2006 MotoGP champion, took fourth with Sylvain Guintoli and Britain's Tom Sykes completing the top six.

Rea was delighted to complete his weekend double which emphasised that he is likely to be the rider to beat again this season.

"It's incredible to start my year here with the double," the Northern Irishman said.

Rea's opening double victory gives him a 14-point lead over Van der Mark heading into the second round in Thailand in two weeks.

Americas Cup Ainslie Team win Oman Series

Sir Ben Ainslie's BAR team have won the America's Cup World Series in Oman.

They were leading after Saturday's races but had a fight to stay top of the leaderboard on Sunday after a poor start in race four and two penalties in races five and six.

But other results went their way and BAR won with 76 points, two ahead of defending champions Oracle Team USA.

Four-time Olympic champion Sir Ben said: "It was pretty tough and we were relieved to get back on top of Oracle."

The BAR team included Rio-bound Finn world champion Giles Scott, whom Sir Ben praised for his tactics.

The Louis Vuitton America's Cup World Series is the first stage of competition in the 2017 America's Cup, with the next round of racing being held in New York in May.

The World Series will also visit Chicago, Portsmouth and Toulon this year, with a possible sixth event in Tokyo as it continues its bid to bring state-of-the-art sailing to a wider international audience.

F1 New Qualifyng System Delayed

The introduction of Formula One’s new qualifying system will be delayed until the fifth race of the season because of technical issues, the sport’s commercial supremo, Bernie Ecclestone, said on Saturday.

The season starts in Australia on 20 March but the new qualifying format, announced by the governing FIA last week, will require changes to the software controlling the timing system.

“My guys who do the timing said ‘Mr E, we don’t want to be put in the position because we don’t think we can get it done properly in time’,” Ecclestone told the BBC.

He said the new format would probably be introduced at the Spanish Grand Prix in May. The season is due to feature a record 21 races.

Ecclestone’s Formula One Management handles the timing software, along with screen graphics and data, and he said the changes involved in the new elimination format were not straightforward.

“If you’re going to try and explain it to the public properly, it’s not just a case of ‘OK, the guy was the last one, bye-bye’,” he said.

“We’ll have to deal with it. I’ve told the FIA this and asked them what they’d like to do with it but the bottom line is there’s not a lot they can do with it because we do all the timekeeping.“

Under the new procedure, the slowest drivers will be eliminated as the three sessions progress rather than at the end of each phase.

After seven minutes of the first session has elapsed, the slowest driver will be eliminated, with others following at 90-second intervals.

Fifteen of the 22 will go through to the next phase, with the slowest eliminated after six minutes. The same 90-second sequence ensues until eight drivers are left.

In the final session one driver will be eliminated after five minutes and then one every 90 seconds until two are left fighting for pole position with one-and-a-half minutes remaining.